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Full text of "The educational work of Dr. Lowell Mason ; Published works of Doctor Mason ; Lowell Mason"

THE EDUCATIONAL WORK 

OF 

DR. LOWELL MASON. 

BY 

THEODORE F. SEWARD. 



Published Works of Dr. Mason. 



LOWELL MASON. 

By A. W. THAYER. 



THE EDUCATIONAL WORK 

OF 

DR. LOWELL MASON. 

BY THEODOKE F. SEWAKD. 



Dr. Lowell Mason was a born educator. He educated the 
American people out of a false and into a true style of sacred 
music, and demonstrated to them the two great correlated 
truths that music is a universal gift and that childhood is the 
proper period for cultivating it. As a matter of history and in 
justice to posterity it is desirable that an accurate record should 
be left of at least the leading features of such a life and such a 
work. 

Dr. Mason was born January 8, 1792, in Medfield, Mass. 
In his earlier years he was regarded as having no particular 
talent, and seemed little disposed to apply himself in any use- 
ful or practical way. It is true that he showed an ardent love 
for music and a marvellous facility in mastering every musical 
instrument he came across. But it illustrates the state of pub- 
lic opinion at that time that this gift was considered as one 
of the most hopeless features of his case. What good could pos- 
sibly be expected of a youth who refused to interest himself 
in any practical subject ? A farmer could till the soil ; a black- 
smith could shoe a horse, a merchant could sell goods, but of 
what use in the community could any one be who could do 
nothing but fiddle and sing ? 

His father was at his wits' end. If he left the country store 
he was conducting in the care of the misguided boy, he was 
likely to find on returning that his (i confidential " clerk had 



4 EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 



locked the door and gone off with some too attractive com- 
panion with the key in his pocket.* 

Dr. Mason's own account of his early life is that he was, in 
the opinion of the community, "a wayward, unpromising boy, 
although indulging no vices. He never used intoxicating 
liquors or uttered a profane oath. He gave little promise, save 
for music, for which he early manifested a strong inclination. 
He spent twenty years of his life in doing nothing but playing 
upon all manner of musical instruments that came within his 
reach." 

These twenty years of " doing nothing " (as judged by the 
too practical standard of the day) really afforded a valuable 
preparation for the exceptionally useful life that followed. 
His passion for musical instruments led him to save carefully 
his small means for the purpose of buying them, and, as there 
was no one to teach him their use, the process of learning them 
was a valuable means of self-discipline and a foundation for the 
rare teaching qualities he afterward exhibited. 

The following incident affords an amusing illustration both 
of his aptitude and his perseverance. He was invited to train 
a band at a neighboring village. When he met them for the 
first rehearsal he found several instruments that were new to 
him. He suggested that it would be well to leave them with 
him to be tuned and put in order before the next lesson ; and 
during the intervening week he practised upon them till he 
felt prepared to meet all demands that might be made upon 
him as instructor. 

At the age of sixteen he took charge of the choir of the vil- 
lage church, and from that time till he was twenty conducted 
various singing classes in the surrounding communities. This 
was a part of the period in which he was supposed to be "doing 
nothing." 

At twenty (1812) he removed to Savannah, Ga., and devoted 
himself to business. He was not long in obtaining a situation 
in a bank in that city. This position suited him perfectly, as 
it enabled him to still gratify his passion for music. All his 

* This and many other facts and iucidents were related by Dr. Mason 
to the writer during various conversations in the year 1866 aud afterwards 
while he lived. 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 5 



spare time was devoted to musical study and the training of 
choirs. His "first appearance " in the musical world of Savan- 
nah was in this wise : Eumors of the wonderful talent of the 
young New Englander had reached the ears of the citizens, and 
he was invited to favor them with some specimens of his 
powers. On the appointed evening he appeared before a large 
audience in the lecture-room of one of the churches. They 
were charmed with all they saw and heard, but (as he took 
much pleasure in describing fifty years later) were quite over- 
whelmed when he stood up with his " base-viol" resting on a 
chair in front of him and played and sang two different parts 
at the same time ; an exhibition of skill for which they were 
not prepared. 

Dr. Mason's passion for music did not prevent him from 
taking an active share in other interests. He helped organize 
and was made superintendent of what was then the only Sun- 
day-school in Savannah and said to be the second one organ- 
ized in this country. It was in connection with the First Pres- 
byterian Church, of which he was a member. Yet it was music 
and always music that chiefly absorbed his attention and oc- 
cupied his time outside of business hours. His health was per- 
fect and his capacity for work remarkable. Even during his 
meals his mind was occupied with the engrossing theme. It 
was a common thing for him to rise from the table while eat- 
ing and go to his desk to make a memorandum or jot down a 
musical thought, and this habit continued during the most of 
his active life. 

At Savannah the young enthusiast was so fortunate as to 
find a truly cultivated musician by the name of F. L. Abel, 
with whom he studied harmony and musical composition. 
This was a most important link in the chain of circumstances 
by which he was fitted for the specific work of his after life. 
The necessity for one side of this work arose from the anoma- 
lous state of sacred music during the last century. The few 
plain English tunes that were brought over by our forefathers 
were virtually their sole musical possessions. These were sung 
by the congregations with no attempt at musical training or 
culture, till they completely lost their power and attractiveness. 
All voices sang the air, and as each singer was a law unto him- 



6 EDUCATIONAL WORK OF BE. LOWELL MASON 



self, the melodies were tortured and twisted till they bore little 
semblance to their original form. 

At this juncture a style of music was introduced from Eng- 
land which made a great stir, and led to a good degree of 
musical practice, but left the churches in very little better 
condition, artistically, than they were before. The so-called 
" fugue tunes " were not, as is generally supposed, of American 
origin. Compositions in that style were first brought from the 
mother country. They were lively melodies in the imitative 
form, the parts responding to each other like a " catch " or 
madrigal. The contrast with the heavy, lifeless style that then 
prevailed proved very attractive. Persons with some musical 
genius but no knowledge of harmony took up the new fashion, 
and the country was flooded with their chaotic compositions. 
The last state of the churches was but little better than the 
first. 

To purify the fountain of American sacred music was the 
first great mission to which Dr. Mason was called. Being dis- 
satisfied with most of the tunes then in use, he was led to seek 
music for his choir from other and better sources. The works 
of Handel, Haydn, and the other classical composers supplied 
a rich field for his researches. It was his delight to take the 
more melodious passages from the productions of these authors, 
whether vocal or instrumental, and reproduce them with words 
carefully chosen and adapted for the use of his choir. In proc- 
ess of time he found so large a variety of these selections 
accumulated that the idea of having them published naturally 
suggested itself to him. In 1821, nine years after first going 
to Savannah, he returned to Boston with his bundle of MSS., 
seeking a publisher. 

His reception was by no means encouraging. He placed no 
copyright restrictions upon his proposed venture, his chief 
object in having the collection printed being to secure copies 
for his own choir and classes. But publishers were shy. 
Numerous musical works were already before the public, and 
no one was found ready to take the risk of adding another to 
the list. Failing with the publishing houses, Dr. Mason laid 
his plan before the managers of the Handel and Haydn 
Society, then in the sixth year of its existence, and already 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MA80N. 7 



growing famous. The MSS. were submitted to the organist of 
the society, Dr. G. K. Jackson. Dr. Jackson was a thoroughly 
educated English musician, and probably the highest musical 
authority in America at that time. He went carefully over 
the book, and after making various suggestions, and adding a 
few tunes of his own selection, he gave the work his unquali- 
fied approval. 

The undertaking was regarded as a great risk, and every 
means was employed to secure the favorable attention of the 
public. A certificate of indorsement from Dr. Jackson was 
not only placed at the beginning of the book, but the work 
was formally dedicated to him "As a testimony of the high 
estimation in which he is held, for his exquisite taste, profound 
knowledge, and unrivaled skill in the art and science of 
music." A certificate from Mr. Abel, Dr. Mason's former 
teacher, was also printed. Every effort was made (with Dr. 
Mason's entire approval) to produce the impression that the 
book came from the society itself. The preface stated that 
"the Society have for some time been engaged with much 
labor, and at considerable expense, in collecting materials for 
the present work." Again, " The Handel and Haydn Society 
have had access to all the productions of the great masters, and 
they have exercised their best judgment in making such 
selections from them as would most enrich the present work. 
They consider themselves as peculiarly fortunate in having 
had, for the accomplishment of their purpose, the assistance of 
Mr. Lowell Mason, one of their members now resident in 
Savannah, whose taste and science have well fitted him for the 
employment, and whose zeal for the improvement of church 
music has led him to take an important part in selecting, 
arranging and harmonizing the several compositions." 

The book appeared in the latter part of the year 1821, with 
the date 1822. It was called the " Boston Handel and 
Haydn Society's Collection of Church Music," and was copy- 
righted by Joseph Lewis, secretary of the society. 

Its success was immediate and unprecedented. The first edi- 
tion was exhausted before the end of the first year, and succes- 
sive editions followed each other closely to the number of twenty- 
two. Its value to the society was incalculable. It brought th 



8 EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 



it an income amounting in the aggregate to more than $10,000. 
This enabled the organization to lay its foundations so deep 
and broad that, unlike other similar associations in American 
cities, which usually have a brief, uncertain history, the 
Handel and Haydn Society has remained one of the per- 
manent institutions of Boston. 

But this result was of small importance in comparison with 
the influence exerted by the book on the musical taste of the 
country at large. Dr. Mason returned to his bank and his 
choir at Savannah, while the book continued its work of use- 
fulness. It took possession of churches, singing classes, and 
homes, purifying and elevating the taste wherever it went. 
The absurd style of the previous generation was gradually 
supplanted and laid away among other curious relics of the 
past. 

A second effect of the publication of this work was the 
directing of public attention to its author. His labors with the 
Savannah choir continued with their usual success, and in 
course of time some of the citizens of Boston began to consider 
the practicability of inducing him to remove to that cit} r . A 
committee of gentlemen from three of the churches finally 
agreed to guarantee him an income of $2,000 a year for two years 
if he would make the change, and in the year 1827, after care- 
ful consideration of the matter, he gave a favorable response 
to their request, and transferred his residence and his musical 
labors from Savannah to Boston. 

The three churches whose action led to this transfer had 
arranged or agreed among themselves that Dr. Mason should 
take charge of the music in each church for six months. The 
first six months were given to the Hanover Street Church, of 
which Dr. Lyman Beecher was pastor. The Greene Street 
Church and the Park Street Church occupied the next two 
half years respectively. During that period the Hanover 
Street Church was burned, and a new place of worship was 
built on Bowdoin Street. In the mean time Dr. Mason had 
become dissatisfied with the plan of thus dividing his labors, 
and he made a permanent arrangement with the Bowdoin 
Street Church (Dr. Beecher's). This made it necessary that 
he should give up the proposed guarantee, and he took a 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 9 



position as teller in the American Bank. Through his choir 
Dr. Mason was able to continue and emphasize the educational 
work in sacred music that was begun by his book. Boston was 
the recognized center of musical influence in America, and the 
choir of Dr. Beecher's church was not long in gaining a 
national reputation. The amount of time and labor that he 
devoted to the choir would not be easy of computation. Two 
evenings of each week were given up to it unfailingly. One 
of these was for purposes of rehearsing only, and the time was 
strictly devoted to that end. The other was more social in its 
nature, and often ended with a treat of refreshments, always at 
Dr. Mason's expense. This apparently unimportant fact is 
mentioned to illustrate the zeal and enthusiasm with which he 
carried on the work of his choir. It resulted in a degree of 
finish and taste in the musical service of the church that 
had never been attained in this country before. Pilgrimages 
were made from all parts of the land to hear the wonderful 
singing. Clergymen who attended ministerial gatherings in 
Boston carried home with them oftentimes quite as much 
musical as spiritual inspiration. The descriptions they gave of 
the beautiful singing they had heard stimulated their choir 
leaders to more faithful efforts in behalf of church music, and 
also served as an ideal toward which they should strive. 

It cannot but be regarded as an extraordinary exhibition of 
educational power that a man should thus sit in his choir gallery 
and carry a whole nation through a process of musical training. 
It was continued for many years until the public taste un- 
derwent a complete change. It is not claimed that no other 
influences were at work during this time. Teachers and 
choristers with correct ideas and refined tastes appeared in 
different localities and rendered efficient service toward the 
same good end. Special mention should be made of Dr. 
Thomas Hastings, who was nearly contemporary with Dr. 
Mason. But in no other case was found that combination of 
characteristics — force, energy, and capacity for leadership — 
which carried such an influence and left such an 'impress as is 
seen in the life-work of Dr. Mason. Indeed, it was the result 
of these qualities in him that, to a large extent, opened the 
field and gave effectiveness to the labors of others. 



10 EDUCATIONAL WOEK OF DB. LOWELL MASON. 



The various collections of sacred music that followed the 
" Handel and Haydn Collection" furnished a most important ele- 
ment in raising the standard of church music in America. The 
scope of this treatise does not allow a detailed account of the 
many publications of Dr. Mason. Only those will be specified 
which marked a distinctive era in the educational work which this 
sketch is particularly designed to commemorate. Among these 
comes next in order the " Carmina Sacra." It enlarged and 
broadened the work of its predecessor to an almost unlimited 
extent. If the "Handel and Haydn Collection" conquered its 
thousands, the " Carmina Sacra" conquered its tens of thousands. 
Its sale from first to last amounted to more than half a million 
copies. It confirmed the American public in the better and 
more appropriate style of sacred music they had begun to 
appreciate, and gave them a new delight in music ; a degree of 
pleasure they had not imagined it could afford. Singing 
schools were held in nearly every village and hamlet in the 
Union. The choir rehearsal was accounted the chief luxury of 
the week. The new movement proved to be a promoter not 
only of good taste but of good morals. The pleasure of musi- 
cal evenings often took the place of entertainments that were 
of a doubtful if not a positively harmful character. The 
dancing school of that period was an enemy of society ; usually 
held in the " ball-room " of the country inn and associated with 
liquor drinking, late hours and other forms of dissipation. 
The singing class furnished a valuable offset to this temptation, 
and not infrequently banished it altogether. It thus enlisted 
the sympathy of all good citizens without reference to their 
musical gifts or appreciation. 

Allusion has thus far been made to but one side of Dr. 
Mason's work — the improvement of church music. His services 
in another direction were no less remarkable; perhaps even 
more far-reaching and valuable in their results. 

It seems now almost incredible that only a little over half a 
century ago the possibility of teaching children to sing intelli- 
gently and to read music was not only unthought of but the 
suggestion of it was received with doubt, ridicule and opposi- 
tion. It required just such a union of qualities as were com- 
bined in Dr. Lowell Mason — a genius for teaching, a special 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. H 



faculty with children, indomitable energy and perseverance — 
to overcome the prejudices of the day and carry the experiment 
through to a triumphant demonstration. There is a reason 
which will be mentioned farther on why Dr. Mason's part in 
establishing music in the Boston schools has of late years not 
been fully realized. That the honor belongs chiefly to him, 
the following pages will plainly show. 

Dr. Mason seems to have been led to his first efforts in the 
systematic instruction of children in music by the necessities 
of his choir. Wishing to strengthen the alto part, and recog- 
nizing the peculiar fitness of certain boys' voices for that part, 
he selected six boys and trained them regularly at his home. 
He taught them to read music and made them members of his 
choir. This was a great marvel at that day. That children 
could read music independently and sustain a secondary part 
with other voices was a revelation. The skepticism of the pub- 
lic mind as to the possibility of training children in music can- 
not well be realized at the present time. It is worth while to 
illustrate the condition of feeling on the subject by quoting 
from a later Annual Report of the Boston Academy of Music 
(1839). 

"In the present state of public opinion upon the subject of 
education in music, it is not easy to convey to others an idea 
of the apathy which formerly existed in relation to it, or the 
doubts and distrust which its friends had to encounter. But 
there are those among us whose memories bear a faithful record 
of such difficulties at the outset of our enterprise. And we need 
only retrace a history of facts beginning eight years since to re- 
call them to our minds. At that time, when a gentleman, now 
a professor of the Academy (Dr. Mason), proposed to give a 
public exhibition of the proficiency in music made by a class of 
about tw r o hundred children who had received gratuitous instruc- 
tion under his care, we well remember the coldness, not to say 
contempt, with which the proposition was received by individ- 
uals of intelligence, whose opinions upon subjects connected 
with education had weight with the public. Apparently it was 
regarded by them as scarcely within the range of possibility that 
the voices of children of a tender age could be so trained as to 
produce anything which deserved the name of music ; and that, 
to bestow pains in teaching such, or an hour in listening to 
them, was but time and labor thrown away. Nor is it at all 
probable that the sentiments of the public at large, so far as 



12 EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 



any were entertained by them, were widely different. When, 
on the evening appointed for the exhibition, we saw a large 
number of spectators, we could not but feel that they had 
assembled with mingled emotions, in which, if curiosity pre- 
dominated, distrust and doubt were not without their share. 
But the results of that concert we never shall forget. To a few 
of the first songs the audience listened with wonder, perhaps 
not unmixed with fear lest the excellence of the performance 
which commenced so favorably might not be sustained to the 
end. But when, as each succeeding piece was sung, the confi- 
dence manifested by the young pupils in their own powers had 
communicated itself to the listeners, when to a precision and 
accuracy in time and tune which might have put to shame 
veteran choirs, there were added some of the more difficult 
graces of execution, the effect was electrical. Doubt and dis- 
trust were banished, and the audience gave themselves up to 
emotions of delight. A repetition of the concert was called 
for, accompanied with the warmest encomiums of the press, 
and was received with unabated interest. One error, that 
which denied the capacity of children for learning music, was 
removed." 

In the year 1829, Dr. William 0. Woodbridge, a gentleman 
of high standing and commanding influence in educational 
circles, returned from Europe, where he had spent several 
years in studying the educational systems of the Old World. 
The inductive method, as developed by Pestalozzi, had naturally 
received a large share of his attention. He had also become 
especially interested in the application of the method to the 
subject of music and brought with him the elementary works 
of Nageli, Kobler and Pfeiffer. During the year 1830 he de- 
livered a lecture before the American Institute of Instruction 
at Boston, on "Vocal Music as a Branch of Education." He 
made use of Dr. Mason's class of boys as an illustration during 
his lecture, and by the views he presented, with the practical 
demonstration afforded by the children, excited much interest 
in the subject, which was then so new to the public. 

Dr. Mason's success as a teacher had been so marked as to be 
almost phenomenal. It was not, therefore, without something 
of a struggle that he decided to make a trial of the new method 
that was presented by Dr. Woodbridge. But his nature was 
too progressive to leave any educational path untried. He 
tested " Pestalozzianism," and accepted it so fully, and pressed 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 13 



it so vigorously, that it can truly be said that he did more 
than any other person to make that name a household word in 
America. 

He also organized new classes of children, and gave several 
concerts, which had the effect to develop still further the inter- 
est of the public in the subject of juvenile musical education. 

This was entirely a labor of love on his part. His instruc- 
tions were not only given without charge to the children, but 
the proceeds of the public concerts were devoted to various 
charitable objects. The first Annual Report of the Boston 
Academy of Music says : "Mr. Mason adopted the system of 
instruction (Pestalozzian) and carried it into effect by a course 
of laborious instruction, given gratuitously to large juvenile 
classes." 

The magnitude of this educational reform — placing music 
among the regular studies of the rising generation — is well 
illustrated by the time that elapsed between the first agitation 
of the subject in Boston and the final introduction of music 
into the school curriculum. The following is a brief synopsis 
of the course of its history : 

The illustrated lecture by Dr. Woodbridge occurred in 1830. 
In December, 1831, Mr. G. H. Snelling presented to the Pri- 
mary School Board an elaborate report, in which the following 
resolution was submitted: 

"Resolved, That one school from each district be selected 
for the introduction of systematic instruction in vocal music, 
under the direction of a committee to consist of one from each 
district and two from the Standing Committee." 

After much discussion, and not without serious opposi- 
tion, the report was accepted on the 17th of January, of the 
following year (1832). The experiment received a partial 
trial, but the plan was never carried fully into effect. Dr. 
Mason, therefore, became convinced that the strongest possible 
influence would be required to make a suitable impression on 
the public mind, and to carry weight with the School Board. 
He had been President of the Handel and Haydn Society 
from the year 1827, and would gladly have used the influence 
of the society for this purpose. But the managers felt that 
its work lay in the development of the classical rather than the 



14 EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 



elementary side of music, and declined to take any action in 
the matter. Dr. Mason therefore withdrew from the presidency 
of the society (he declined re-election in 1831 ; his declina- 
tion was unheeded, but in 1832 he positively refused to serve 
longer), and he proposed to a number of leading citizens the 
formation of some kind of an organization that should give 
increased dignity and strength to the movement. The " Bos- 
ton Academy of Music" was the outcome of this sugges- 
tion. 

We have here the reason previously hinted at why Dr. 
Mason's part in the introduction of music into the Boston 
schools has been partially lost sight of. All that was done here- 
after was done in the name of the Boston Academy of Music. 
Just as his first book of sacred music was presented as the 
work of the Handel and Haydn Society, so were his labors 
now performed in the name of the new organization. As the 
"Handel and Haydn Society's Collection of Sacred Music 7 ' was 
wholly Dr. Mason's work in its conception, plan and execution, 
so was the Boston Academy a living embodiment of his ideas 
and his labors. In a word, he surrendered his identity, or 
allowed it, for the public good, to be absorbed in this society 
of citizens. It was a wise and sagacious plan. It undoubtedly 
did much to promote the cause of music not only in Boston, 
but throughout the whole country. Yet it should not be 
allowed in history to obscure the commanding personality of 
his work. Without Dr. Lowell Mason, the Boston Academy 
of Music would never have had an existence, and what the 
Academy did, musically, is what Dr. Mason did, except as 
other musicians were afterward associated with him, to whom 
due credit was given. It is necessary to make this point 
especially clear, as the reports of the Academy are studiously 
worded (as in the introduction to the "Handel and Haydn 
Society's Collection " ) in such a way as to convey the impres- 
sion that the organization was first and Dr. Mason second. 

The first Annual Report of the Academy was issued in May 
1833. Its officers were : President, Jacob Abbott ; Vice-Presi- 
dent, David Greene ; Recording Secretary, George William 
Gordon ; Corresponding Secretary, William C. Woodbridge ; 
Treasurer, Julius A. Palmer; Professors, Lowell Mason and 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 15 



George J. Webb. Ten "Counsellors" were also appointed 
from prominent Boston citizens. 

The following quotation from this Report will show both the 
energy and the direction of the labors of the " Academy : 99 

"The first step taken by the Academy was to engage Mr. 
Mason to relinquish a lucrative situation for the purpose of 
devoting his whole time to the instruction of classes. The rap- 
idly increasing demand for his labors soon obliged them to elect 
an associate professor. Mr. George James Webb, then organ- 
ist of St. Paul's Church, was accordingly appointed to this 
office — a gentleman whose superior musical talents and educa- 
tion, and his cordial adoption of the new system of instruction, 
as well as his elevated views in regard to the objects and style 
of vocal music, furnished the best ground for reliance on his 
aid. 

"In order to excite the interest and confidence of the public, 
two juvenile concerts were held in the spring of 1833, at which 
the performances were exclusively by the pupils of Mr. Mason. 
The repetition of both was called for, and the crowded and 
attentive audiences gave ample evidence of the satisfaction 
which was felt. 

" The committee on juvenile and adult classes have procured 
convenient rooms, under the Bowdoin Street Church, for the 
exclusive use of the Academy, and a juvenile class has been 
formed there .under the direction of Mr. Mason, of 400 pupils. 
They have also : eri gaged the chapel of the Old South Church, 
for two afternoons' in the week, for a class of 100 pupils, under 
Mr. Webb. These schools are free to all children, no other 
condit ioFi.'tieing reanired of the /pupils than that they be over 
seven years o* age,' and engage to continue in the school one 
year. Mr..Webi> has also commenced a juvenile school at 
Cambridgeporfc^ mid* Mr. Mason has established others at 
Salem and Lynn^ containing about 150 pupils each, and an 
adult class at Sftlem of equal size. 

"But the Academy are ''particularly gratified with the result 
of the efforts to introckj-cs vocal music as a part of the regular 
course of instruction in schools. It appears from the report 
of the committee on this subject, that the plan was first 
adopted in the Mount Vernon school, Jacob Abbott's, and the 
monitorial school of Mr. Towle, both of females, Mr. Thayer's 
school for boys, in CbaunQy Place, in each of which there are 
100 pupils, who receive instruction twice a week in vocal 
music. 

"Instruction is also given by the professors of the Academy 
in the Asylum for the Blind, in the schools of Mr. Hayward 



16 EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 



and Miss Raymond, Chestnut Street, in Miss Spooner's school 
in Montgomery Place, and in the academy at Cambridgeport. 

"The whole number of the pupils under the care of the 
Academy exceeds 1,500." 

With all the combined musical and social influence of the 
Academy, it was still several years before the School Board 
finally adopted music as a regular study, or made provision 
for its instruction. On the 10th of August, 183G, a memorial 
was presented to the School Committee by the officers of the 
Academy, supported by two petitions from Boston citizens, 
asking that vocal music be introduced as a branch of instruc- 
tion into the schools of the city. The Board considered the 
matter favorably, and on the 19th of September following 
adopted a series of resolutions recommending the experiment 
to be tried in four schools of the city, which they designated. 
Unfortunately, the City Council failed to make the necessary 
appropriation, and the plan again fell through. Dr. Mason 
then proposed to teach in one of these schools for one year 
gratuitously. This proposition was accepted, and the Hawes 
School of South Boston was recommended as a suitable one 
for the experiment. Dr. Mason not only taught this school 
without remuneration, but he also furnished the books and 
materials at his own expense. On the 7th of August, 1838, 
the Music Committee reported to the Board, pronouncing the 
experiment an entire success, and giving the following impor- 
tant testimony with regard to the general influence of music 
upon the pupils : " The committee will add, on the authority 
of the masters of the Hawes School, that the scholars are fur- 
ther advanced in their other studies at the end of this than of 
any other school year." 

At last, seven years after the first presentation of the subject 
to the School Board by Mr. Swelling, the work was accom- 
plished. On the 28th of August, 1838, the School Committee 
passed a series of resolutions making music one of the school 
studies, placing the department in the charge of Dr. Lowell 
Mason, and laying down sundry rules and regulations with 
regard to the amount of time to be given to the study, salary 
to be paid, etc., etc. Concerning this vote of the committee 
the Managers of the Academy say justly in their report of the 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 17 



following year : "It may be regarded as the Magna Charta of 
musical education in America." The result was well worth 
the sever, years of un remunerative labor and patient waiting it 
had cosr. 

A third distinctive work of Dr. Mason w r as the creation of 
what is known as the Musical Convention, or Musical Institute. 
This is a means of musical training and culture that is peculiar 
to the United States. Dr. Mason had prepared a book of in- 
struction for teachers of vocal music, which was published 
under the title of the "Manual of the Boston Academy of 
Music." The issuing of a book for teachers was a novel idea 
at the time, and it naturally suggested another plan in the same 
direction — viz., classes for teachers, in which they should be 
trained to better methods of instruction. The first of these 
was formed in 1834, and consisted of twelve members. The 
numbers grew from year to year, and it soon came to be recog- 
nized as one of the most important uses of the Academy. In 
1838, the class had already grown to 134, including representa- 
tives from ten different States. Inquiries then began to be 
received from different points as to whether the Professors of 
the Academy could not give short courses of instruction in 
other cities. The plan w r as considered favorably, and the 
" Musical Convention" soon became an American "institu- 
tion." Some degree of prejudice has been excited against this 
method, from the fact that incompetent teachers have imposed 
upon the public by assuming the title of Convention Conductors 
or Professors of Musical Institutes. But the existence of a 
counterfeit is always an involuntary testimony to the value of 
the genuine. The Musical Convention has been an important 
factor in the artistic development of the American people- 
Beginning with plain class instruction, it has assimilated mod- 
ern ideas as it progressed. The singers of a county or combi- 
nation of counties, meeting for rehearsal, could practice and 
perform a much higher order of music than was possible with 
individual choirs. It was through the " Convention " that a 
great proportion of the singers of the past generation became 
familiar with the standard choruses of the Messiah, Creation, 
etc. In fact, its influence is still very great, although it is 
gradually assuming a different form and method. The Con- 



13 EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 



ven ti on was the forerunner of the modern Musical Festival. It 
was freely conceded at the two Boston " Jubilees," that the 
gathering of those great and effective choruses would not have 
been possible except for the singing schools and musical con- 
ventions which grew out of the labors of Dr. Lowell Mason. 

In his personal work as a teacher, Dr. Mason stood in the 
foremost rank of the world's great pedagogues. The Hon. 
Horace Mann, himself a pre-eminent teacher, and one who 
was intimate with the best teachers of Europe and their meth- 
ods, wrote to Dr. Mason in 1845 : " I have never before seen 
anything that came nearer to my beau ideal of teaching." In 
the dignity of his presence, in the clear arrangement of his 
thoughts, in the felicity of his expression, in magnetic power 
over his pupils, controlling them at will, Dr. Mason certainly 
combined all the qualities of a model instructor. To see a 
single lesson given by him was sufficient to raise an ordinary 
teacher's standard, and to give him an inspiration for the re- 
mainder of his life. This remark does not apply only to teach- 
ers of music, but of all subjects. His method of presenting 
ideas gave a new conception of what it is to impart. English 
teachers who heard a few lessons given by him in 1853, retain 
the memory of them almost as a sacred tradition. Mr. John 
Curwen, author of the Tonic Sol-fa system, spoke often and 
with enthusiasm of these lessons and their effect upon him 
and his band of fellow-workers. 

His pastor, the Rev. George B. Bacon, spoke thus in a Me- 
morial Sermon, some months after his death. "His pupils, who 
are scattered east and west, and north and south across the 
continent, are quick to testify their personal indebtedness to 
him, not only, and not even chiefly, for the musical skill and 
knowledge which he gave them, but for the moral tone which 
his strong character imparted to their lives. ' He made a 
man of me,' they will tell you, as they have told me; ' teach- 
ing me how to teach myself, to drill and discipline myself, 
giving me habit, method, faithfulness, by which my whole life 
has been made strong and useful and successful.' It was 
something like this that a distinguished business man said to me 
at his funeral, and it was the sense of such indebtedness which 
made his pupils, when in his old age they came to see him, 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 19 



salute him with a mingled reverence and love so hearty and 
sincere. If God had given him, by nature, a strong will, some- 
times imperious and arbitrary, it was an endowment necessary 
for his work, and of which, as the testimony of his pupils shows, 
he made good use. He might have made, as some one said of 
him, a famous general, if he had been trained to arms instead 
of music." 

An account of Dr. Mason's educational work would not be 
complete without some allusion to its religious side. While 
not wanting in a true appreciation of music as an art, yet his 
predominant thought was ever of that art as a handmaid of de- 
votion. This thought was never lost sight of. In his Saturday 
evening rehearsals he took every means to solemnize the minds 
of his choir, and to impress them with their responsibility in 
leading the worship of the congregation. He opened the re- 
hearsals with prayer ; he analyzed the hymns that were to be 
sung, calling attention to the depth and majesty of the senti- 
ments they were about to utter. Thus the music of the Sab- 
bath, although, as before stated, exceedingly attractive, yet it 
was never in the remotest degree a mere musical performance, 
but truly a Levitical service. 

The same spirit was carried out with equally consistent care 
in his selection of words for secular music. Not the slightest 
deviation from the most refined taste can be found in any of the 
poetry to which he wrote or adapted music. Especially is this 
true of that which was intended for the use of little children. 
It is interesting and refreshing to read the verses in the chil- 
dren's song-books he published fifty years ago. They are foun- 
tains of sweet sentiment and pure thought, calculated to draw 
out and impress the natural and wholesome feelings of an inno- 
cent childhood. 

We have now considered the threefold work of Dr. Mason in 
his educational influence upon the American people. As the 
treatise is written for this purpose solely, and is not of the nat- 
ure of a memoir, other events of his life will be mentioned in 
the fewest possible words. 

In 1817, Dr. Mason married Miss Abigail Gregory, of West- 
borough, Mass. As has been said before, his professional life was 
a very absorbing one. It was, therefore, most important for his 



20 EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 



public work that his wife should be such as she was ; one who 
could quietly assume all the household and parental cares and 
responsibilities, leaving him free to give his whole time and 
attention to his professional labors. As an illustration of the 
extent to which she did this, it may be mentioned that when it 
was found that the son William had a special gift for music, it 
was the mother and not the father who gave him lessons on 
the piano and sat by his side an hour each day to direct his 
practice. 

Mrs. Mason is still living (February, 1885) at her home in 
Orange, in the enjoyment of a remarkable degree of health and 
vigor at the age of eighty-seven. 

The family of Dr. and Mrs. Mason consisted of four sons. 
These were Daniel Gregory, Lowell, William, and Henry. The 
two eldest were the founders of the publishing house of Mason 
Brothers, which was dissolved by the death of Daniel in 1869. 
Lowell and Henry are at the head of' the firm of Mason & 
Hamlin, manufacturers of the celebrated organs. Dr. William 
Mason is recognized as one of the most distinguished musicians 
America has yet produced, whether he be considered as pianist, 
organist, composer, or teacher. 

In the year 1837 Dr. Lowell Mason visited Europe, and 
studied the methods of various countries, chiefly Germany, and 
embodied the results of his observations in an interesting vol- 
ume of " Musical Letters" that was published after his return. 
In 1850, he went again and remained nearly a year and a half. 
On his return he made his home in New York instead of Bos- 
ton. AVhile residing in that city he sang as precentor in Dr. 
James W. Alexander's church, of which Dr. John Hall is now 
pastor. 

In 1854 he occupied his beautiful residence " Silverspringy ' 
on the side of Orange Mountain in New Jersey, about twelve 
miles from New York. Here he spent a peaceful old age till 
his death in the year 1872. He was one of the founders of the 
"Valley Church," a congregational church at " Orange Val- 
ley," of which the lamented Dr. George B. Bacon was for many 
years the pastor. 

Dr. Mason had taken much pleasure during his life in 
collecting rare and curious musical works. His library had 



EDUCATIONAL WORK OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 21 



thus become a very large one — much larger and more valuable 
than any other musical library in the United States. This was 
afterward donated by his family to Yale College, a handsome 
room being fitted up for its reception in the West Divinity 
School. 



22 PUBLISHED WORKS OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 



PUBLISHED WORKS OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 

The following incomplete list of the works of Dr. Mason in- 
cludes some in the preparation of which he was assisted by 
other parties, but none, it is believed, which were not mainly 
his composition. Works in which he was himself the assistant 
are omitted, as well as many pamphlets, single compositions, 
lectures, etc.: 

Collections of Chuech Music. 



The Boston Handel and Haydn Society's Collection of 

Church Music 1822 

The Choral Harmony 1830 

The Choir, or Union Collection 1832 

Lyra Sacra 1832 

Boston Academy's Collection of Church Music 1835 

Mason's Sacred Harp. Parti 1835 

" " Part II 

Occasional Psalm and Hymn Tunes 1836 

The Seraph 1837 

The Modern Psalmist 1839 

Carmina Sacra 1841 

Songs of Asaph 1843 

The Psaltery 1845 

.The Choralist 1848 

The National Psalmist 1850 

Cantica Laudis 1850 

The New Carmina Sacra 1850 

The Hymnist 185.0 

The Hallelujah 1854 

Mason's Hand-Book of Psalmody. (Published in London.) 1853 

The People's Tune Book 1860 

Asaph 1861 

The American Tune Book 1869 

JUVENILE AND SCHOOL SONG BOOKS. 

The Juvenile Psalmist 1829 

Dr. Mason supposed this to be the first music book 
ever published for Sunday-Schcols. 

The Juvenile Lyre , 1830 

The first book of secular school songs— in this country, 
at least. 



PUBLISHED WORKS OF DR. LOWELL MASON. 23 



The Boston Academy's Manual of Instruction in the Ele- 
ments of Vocal Music 1834 

Juvenile Singing School 1835 

Sabbath-School Songs 1836 

Sabbath-School Harp 1837 

The Juvenile Songster. (Published in London.) 1838 

Juvenile Music for Sunday-Schools 1839 

Boston School Song Book 1840 

Little Songs for Little Singers 1840 

American Sabbath-School Singing Book 1843 

Song Book of the School-Room 1845 

Primary School Song Book 1846 

The Normal Singer 1856 

The Song Garden. Part 1 1864 

Part II 1864 

Part III 1865 

Glee and Part-Song Books. 

TheOdeon 1837 

Boston Glee Book 1838 

Gentlemen's Glee Book 1841 

Twenty-one Madrigals, Glees and Part-Songs 1843 

The Vocalist 1844 

The Glee Hive 1851 

Miscellaneous. 

Sacred Melodies : Solos, Duets, Trios, etc., with Piano Ac- 
companiment 1833 

Sentences and Short Anthems 1834 

Lafayette Music, for the reception of Lafayette at Faneuil 

Hall, Boston, September 6 1834 

The Musical Library, a periodical 1835, 1886 

The Lyrist : A collection of Songs, Duets, Trios 1838 

Mason's Musical Letters 1838 

Boston Anthem Book 1839 

Music Service of the Episcopal Church 1843 

Lessons in Vocal Music 

Mammoth Exercises 

Vocal Exercises and Solfeggios 1850 

The Sabbath Hymn and Tune Book 1859 



Also, a considerable number of pieces for special occasions, 
lectures, etc. 



24 



DR. LOWELL MASON. 



{From DwighVs Journal of Mvsic.) 

LOWELL MASON. 

BY A. W. THAYER. 

Lowell Mason", Doctor of Music, was born at the scattered 
hamlet of Medfield, some eighteen miles south-west of Boston, 
in Massachusetts, January 8, 1792, and died at Orange, in New 
Jersey, August 11, 1872. 

The population of New England was then small ; there were 
no cities, and very few places which in Europe would have been 
termed villages, and the people were distributed over wide 
spaces. Temptations to vice and idleness were reduced to their 
lowest terms, and the boys, rarely enjoying the advantage of 
schooling more than two or three months in the winter, had 
abundant leisure to devote to their favorite pursuits. The 
number of men of that generation, in the main self-taught, who 
became eminent in all walks of life is astonishing. Mason's 
passion was music. His small means were devoted to the pur- 
chase of instruments and of the instruction books then in 
vogue, and his genius and perseverance, unaided by teachers, 
conquered their difficulties. He has recorded of himself that 
" he spent twenty years of his life in doing nothing save playing 
upon all manner of musical instruments that came within his 
reach ; " but they were years, as it proved, well spent in pre- 
paring him for the great work of his life — the purification and 
reformation of music in the churches, and the introduction of 
singing and reading of music as a regular branch of study in 
the public schools. The local tradition of a village a few miles 
from Medfield records his appearance as a visitor in the evening 
"singing-school," when about twenty years of age, enchanting 
the young people by his beauty and the tones of his violoncello. 

At sixteen the youth was leader of the choir in the local 
church, and a teacher of singing-classes. He even undertook 
the instruction of a band. At the first meeting appeared in- 
struments entirely new to him ; on the pretext of putting them 
in order and tune, he retained them in his hand, and at the 
next weekly meeting he had mastered them sufficiently to meet 
the demands upon him as instructor. 



DR. LOWELL MASON. 



25 



A short digression is here necessary. At the period of the 
American Revolution it may be almost literally said that there 
was neither popular poetry nor music in the English colonies, 
save psalmody and psalm tunes. Watts's psalms and hymns, 
sent in manuscript to the President of Harvard College, had in 
great measure superseded Ainsworth, Sternhold and Hopkins, 
The Bay Psalm Book, and Tate and Brady, and had been 
published in Boston, one edition of a part of them by Dr. 
Franklin in Philadelphia ; but the melodies, so far as the 
present writer has been able to discover, had remained un- 
changed. Some of them, like the " Old Hundredth," were 
worthy of their place in public worship, but their constant use, 
without harmonies, and with no organ to support them, had 
deprived them of all life and interest. It was at that period 
that a few tunes of lively rhythms and imitations, a sort of 
poor glee, with texts from the psalm books, were brought to 
Boston from England. The oldest known to the writer gave 
the name Stephenson as composer. To sing them, choirs pos- 
sessed of a certain amount of training were necessary ; and, 
where choirs in the New England churches did not already 
exist, they were soon formed and, in evening singing-classes, 
taught to sing in parts. The tunes of Tansur, A. Williams, J. 
Arnold, and other English composers, were learned, but the 
glee tunes became the universal favorites ; and William Billings, 
of Boston, a natural genius with no education, and others, 
made them models (1770-1810) of a host of similar composi- 
tions. These men neither had, nor could have, any knowledge 
of the principles of musical composition, and, of course, 
offended every canon of criticism. Recent American writers 
have greatly exaggerated both the extent to which this class of 
tunes was used and their evil effects upon the dignity and 
solemnity of public worship ; but true it is that they became a 
serious evil, and one which it seemed hardly possible to eradi- 
cate. As early as 1810-12 the large choir of Park Street Church, 
in Boston, out of which grew the Handel and Haydn Society 
of that city, had set its face and example against the so-called 
"fuguing tunes," while the Episcopal churches, in which 
organs are usually found, had never, it seems, used them. But 
isolated choirs in cities could produce no wide-spread and last- 



26 



DR. LOWELL MASON. 



ing effect ; a man of skill, knowledge, and judgment was 
needed, one who should take up the work as a vocation, a mis- 
sion. Young Mason was to be the man, than whom no person 
living could have less foreseen the fact. 

In 1812, at twenty years of age, he accepted, a position in a 
bank at Savannah, in the State of Georgia, where he immedi- 
ately turned his musical knowledge to advantage in leading and. 
instructing choirs. It was his good fortune to find there one 
thoroughly instructed musician, with whom he studied har- 
mony and the art of composition. This man was F. L. Abel, a 
member of the well-known family of that name. Mason found 
himself constantly impeded and embarrassed in his public 
musical labors by the want of a collection of Psalm tunes in 
accordance with his taste and judgment ; and this led him, with 
the aid of Abel, to form a manuscript collection for his own 
use. The basis of this collection was the Sacred Melodies of 
William Gardiner — Or, rather, its distinguishing feature, be- 
sides its correctly figured bass, was a large selection from the 
exquisite melodies which Gardiner had extracted from the in- 
strumental works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their con- 
temporaries, and adapted to English psalms and hymns.* The 
best classes of the psalm tunes then in vogue in England, were 
well represented ; and the few excursions beyond the limits of 
good taste are excusable in a young man, and were introduced 
more for choir practice than for use in the church. There was 
no printing-office in that part of the United States of a capacity 
to produce a collection of music, and in 1821 Mr. Mason visited 
Boston, in hope of finding a publisher there. There were so 
many collections already before the public that no one would 
venture to publish it, although its author demanded nothing 
for the copyright, but such a supply as he needed for use in 
Savannah. Negotiations were then opened with the Directors 
of the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, now in the sixth 
year of its existence, and already famous in New England for its 
oratorio performances, especially of The Messiah and Creation. 

* One of the writer's cherished autographs is a leaf from Mr. Mason's 
original MS. containing the violoncello solo in Beethoven's Trio, Opus 11, 
beautifully adapted to a text beginning "Now night in silent grandeur 
reigns." 



DR. LOWELL MASON. 



27 



But it must not be forgotten that the population of Boston 
was then under 45,000, and the people in the neighboring towns 
— within concert-going distance — were less than two-thirds that 
number. The society was necessarily small, and, though estab- 
lished in the only city of the United States in which it could 
have lived, its income was limited, and. the question pressed, 
whether it would be prudent to assume the risk of the under- 
taking. It was at length decided in favor of the (then) bold 
course. It was agreed that, if Dr. G-. K. Jackson, the organist 
of the society, an Englishman thoroughly educated in the solid 
English school, should be able, after a complete and thorough 
examination, to give a certificate of his full approval of the 
work, the society would print and publish it as its own work, 
and (as is stated) would assume all costs and divide any profits 
equally with the compiler. Mr. Mason gave the writer an 
amusing account of his interviews with Dr. Jackson. The 
doctor, sipping from a bottle of gin, sat and listened to the 
tunes in regular succession, sometimes interrupting with criti- 
cisms and suggestions, which the young man soon found he 
might adopt or not according to his own judgment, since at 
the next meeting they were all forgotten by Jackson. Some 
pieces by the doctor himself were inserted, and the result was a 
certificate, closing with the words : "It is much the best book 
of the kind I have seen published in this country, and I do not 
hesitate to give it my most decided approbation." 

This, with a similar document from F. L. Abel, occupy a 
page of the original edition. The society took good care to 
add to the value of the Doctor's eulogium, by dedicating the 
work to him, "As a testimony of the high estimation in which 
he is held for his exquisite taste, profound knowledge, and un- 
rivaled skill in the art and science of music." And so in 1821 
(with date 182?) appeared the Boston Handel and Haydn 
Society's Collection of Church Music, etc., etc., copyrighted by 
Joseph Lewis, Secretary of the Society. It was a matter of 
policy for all who were pecuniarily concerned, that the book 
should come before the public as being actually the work of 
the society, and its preface, to those who know its real history, 
excites here and there a smile ; for instance, the audacious 
statement (unless Mr. Mason in Savannah might be considered 



28 



DR. LOWELL MASON. 



as an important part of the association in Boston) that "the 
society have for some time heen engaged, with much labor and 
at considerable expense, in collecting materials for the present 
work." Again, speaking of the adaptations of melodies from 
the great masters to the purposes of psalmody, we read: "These 
works are among the materials to which the Handel and Hadyn 
Society have had access, and they have exercised their best 
judgment in making such selections from them as would 
most enrich the present work. They consider themselves as 
peculiarly fortunate in having had, for the accomplishment of 
their purpose, the assistance of Mr. Lowell Mason, one of their 
members, now resident in Savannah, whose taste and science 
have well fitted him for the employment, and whose zeal for 
the improvement of church music has led him to undertake an 
important part in selecting, arranging, and harmonizing the 
several compositions." 

The new book was introduced into the then universal New 
England evening "singing-schools," and so into the choirs. 
The first edition was sold off with profit during the first year, 
and constantly enlarged editions, both in matter and number, 
to the tenth or eleventh, followed in the course of the next 
dozen years. 

It was the profits of this book which enabled the Handel and 
Haydn Society to tide over the period of its youth, and estab- 
lish itself as one of the distinguishing institutions of Boston, - 
as it still remains ; it was the .effect of this book which began 
the generation of a new, healthy, and purer taste in music 
throughout New England ; moreover it attracted attention to 
Mr. Mason, and the perfection of his Savannah choir, cultivated 
upon it, becoming known in Boston, a formal invitation was 
extended to him by "a large committee, consisting of different 
denominations of Christians," to return to Boston and "take 
a general charge of music in churches there." The invitation 
was accepted, and in 1827, at the age of thirty-five, he estab- 
lished himself there. 

Mason became President of the Handel and Haydn Society, 
but the object of the association being the performance of orato- 
rio, he soon found its sphere too contracted for the purposes he 
had in view. This, and other reasons, led to his parting from 



DR. LOWELL MASON. 



29 



it, and to the establishment, about 1832, of the Boston Academy 
of Music, with Samuel A. Eliot, some years mayor of the city, 
at its head, but having Mr. Mason as its leading spirit. In 1835 
the Boston Theatre was changed into a music hall, with the 
name Odeon, and here the Academy gave, with a very fine cho- 
rus, cantatas, madrigals, glees, and at length organized an or- 
chestra, and taught the people to understand and enjoy the 
great symphonists. Mr. Mason's great object was universal 
musical education ; and while the Handel and Haydn Society 
and the Academy were educating the public to appreciate the 
highest music, he was laboring, with a success worthy of his 
zeal and perseverance, to make singing and the reading of ordi- 
nary vocal music as common an acquirement as the simple rules 
of arithmetic, or the outlines of geography. 

The first step was so to explain the elementary rules of writ- 
ing and reading music that every one might be made easily to 
understand them. His success in this was such that no quack 
method of "making music easy" has ever been able to obtain 
any lasting footing in New England ; nor does any pupil of a 
New England public school desire any other notation than such 
as was good enough for Handel and Beethoven. Next he gath- 
ered classes, to whom he imparted his methods of teaching, which 
were based upon a thorough study of the system of Pestalozzi — 
awakened their enthusiasm, and thus soon had an able body 
of disciples to aid him in a project which he had for some time 
cherished — nothing less than making singing and reading music 
compulsory branches of instruction in the public schools ! Any- 
thing more hopeless could hardly have been planned. He was 
obliged to prove that children could be made to comprehend 
the meaning of staves and notes — a page of music being then 
to most people as blind as a column of hieroglyphics. He did 
prove it, by concerts of children whom he and Mr. George James 
Webb — a fine English musician, long his friend and coadjutor 
— had taught. One of Mr. Mason's eulogists says, with truth : 
" It was a good while before he could get a hearing for his be- 
lief, that little children could be taught to sing by note, and to 
understand the rudiments of music as a science. A less resolute 
man than he would have been discouraged before he gained per- 
mission to experiment upon his theory in the common schools ; 



30 



DR. LOWELL MASON. 



and when, at last, consent was given grudgingly by the school 
authorities of Boston, he was forced to go to work upon his own 
responsibility, at his own charges, at the most unfavorable time, 
in the most undesirable way. But he succeeded so triumph- 
antly that all the schools in Boston were, in 1838, thrown open 
to him. 

Mr. Mason's path in these and many following years was not 
one of roses. Envy and malice did their most in decrying his 
merits and in exaggerating any mistake made by him, or any 
failing that could be discovered, and the time came when others 
reaped where he had sown — in other words, the teaching in the 
schools was divided between himself and his assistants and his 
opponents. Perhaps the cause may have gained, as both par- 
ties were forced to do their best ; but it was neither just nor 
generous toward Mr. Mason. 

Another project of his, which has now become an institution 
in many parts of the United States, was the calling together 
conventions of music teachers and amateurs. These, continu- 
ing ten or twelve days, were occasions of very great interest and 
value. Lectures on musical topics, especially upon the art of 
teaching singing-classes, with constant practice, and, finally, a 
concert or two, in which the members took part, filled the time, 
and thousands carried away with them their first and never- 
fading impression of the glorious power and beauty of a chorus 
of Handel, sung by a thousand voices with orchestral and organ 
accompaniment. 

Simultaneously with all these labors the press was teeming 
with collections of vocal music by Mr. Mason alone, or in con- 
junction with Mr. Webb, for every possible demand — from the 
infant school to the societies for singing the highest music. 
Their sale was positively enormous. Single collections were 
distributed by hundreds of thousands. Not alone sacred music, 
but glees, madrigals, and four-part songs, for men's voices, wom- 
en's voices, a mixed chorus, English, German, French, Italian, 
anything that was good of its kind that could be found in the 
large library which their editor had collected. That a hand- 
some fortune at length rewarded his labors need hardly be 
stated. 

Mr. Mason's first visit to Europe was in 1837, after ten years 



DU. LOWELL MASON. 



81 



of incessant labor, partly for recreation, but more to make him- 
self acquainted with the methods — especially in Germany — of 
musical instruction in schools of the various grades. There 
was nothing for him to learn ! A pleasing and valuable volume 
of letters records his impressions and observations. 

The last years of his life were spent with his elder children at 
Orange in New Jersey, where two of them resided — Daniel and 
Lowell — whose extensive publishing house was in New York, 
and Orange, therefore, a convenient place of residence. 

But, as Mr. Mason's talent in teaching really amounted to 
genius, his services in Massachusetts were still demanded. The 
Public Board of Education of that State organized annual con- 
ventions of teachers, much on the model of the musical conven- 
tions above noticed, and to these he was annually called, not 
more for the musical instruction which he imparted than for 
the benefit of the example he set the members in the very best 
methods of teaching. 

In the purchase of books for his library Mr. Mason by no 
means confined himself to such as he could read or use in works. 
He collected for the use of others, and with the intention of 
making a collection which after his death should be deposited 
in some institution of learning for the public benefit. Thus, 
being informed by a friend that the late Professor Dehn, of Ber- 
lin, was disposed to sell the finest and completest collection of 
the works of Matheson and Marpurg, — that in the Royal Li- 
brary at Berlin excepted, — he immediately commissioned his 
friend to secure them, though there was not one among them 
that he himself could read. Upon those who sought to injure 
him he never retaliated, but bore calumny and detraction in 
silence, — he lived them down, — and many an opponent he 
changed to a friend by simply giving them the opportunity of 
knowing him personally. Here is a case in point : A young 
writer on musical topics in the periodical press, upon partial in- 
formation, made a somewhat bitter attack upon him. No other 
notice was taken of it than was involved in Mr. Mason's invit- 
ing him to his house and giving him the free use of his library. 
Prejudice soon gave way to respect and admiration on his part, 
while on the other a kindly feeling grew up, which resulted in 
the loan of a handsome sum of money, to be repaid at conven- 



32 



DR. LOWELL MASON. 



ience, without interest, to enable the young man to pursue his 
studies in Europe. Not until years had passed did the latter 
know, and then not from, his benefactor, that the article above 
named had deeply pained and wounded him. 

The writer freely confesses that he has differed from Mr. 
Mason on various matters of opinion and taste ; but this con- 
fession can only add emphasis to the expression of his deep ap- 
preciation of his many great qualities. 

Trieste, August, 1879.